Raising Ocean Acidification Awareness and Research Gaps in Africa: Scientists Meet To Brainstorm

The Ocean Acidification Day of Action will be hosted by the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority (NaFAA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of Liberia in cooperation with the Ocean Acidification International Coordination Center (IAEA OA-ICC).

Ocean acidification often referred to as “the other CO2 problem”, is a perturbation of ocean chemistry due to human CO2 emission. It has been shown to be a major threat to marine ecosystems worldwide and is the focus of the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14.3. Since 2015, African scientists are actively collaborating to address this issue by advancing ocean acidification research throughout the continent as part of the OA-Africa network.

Many African countries rely heavily on their coasts and rivers for economic growth and well-being. Unfortunately, Africa’s marine and coastal ecosystems face severe environmental threats, such as untreated wastewater discharge, illegal fishing, and habitat degradation, all combined with human-induced climate change. The rapidly increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) alters the climate and the chemistry of the ocean. Hence the ocean has absorbed one-fourth of anthropogenic CO2, thereby causing an increase in seawater acidity, a process referred to as ocean acidification.

The overwhelming evidence demonstrates that ocean acidification has the potential to negatively marine ecosystems and their associated services. While a global reduction of CO2 emissions (mitigation) is the ultimate solution, local adaptation strategies are needed to minimize ocean acidification’s negative effects. Currently, the lack of data on ocean acidification and its impacts for Africa is strongly limiting the potential to develop and implement such strategies. Ocean Acidification Africa (OA-Africa; https://www.oa-africa.net/) is a pan-African network working to coordinate and promote ocean acidification awareness and research in Africa.  The network is composed of more than 100 scientists interested in conducting ocean acidification research in Africa. OA- Africa is part of the wider Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network  (https://www.goa-on.org/)  as one of seven regional hubs.

The Ocean Foundation (TOF) launched the OA Day of Action on the 8 January 2018, or 8.1, representing the current average pH, a measure of acidity, of the surface ocean. For the past two years, TOF has celebrated the OA Day of Action as an event in Washington DC for government representatives from embassies to learn more about ocean acidification and to encourage to build both technical and financial capabilities to address the effects of ocean acidification.

This year, a side event will showcase the scientific efforts to monitor and research ocean acidification throughout Africa. This event will increase awareness about ocean acidification and current status of research efforts in Africa and foster a dialogue with scientists, policymakers and industry practitioners attending the OA Day of Action in Monrovia, Liberia. OA-Africa will host the side event in partnership with The Ocean Foundation, the OA-ICC, Future Earth Coasts, Environmental Protection Agency of Liberia and the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority. 

The OA-Africa side event’s objective is to promote and facilitate a community of awareness around ocean acidification to communicate, develop, and facilitate international activities on ocean acidification, including science, capacity building, and communication.

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